"RFID is the missing link between online information and the real world” - Andrew Lippman, Media Lab associate director and head, Viral Communications group.
Driven in part by the staggering adoption rates of mobile devices and their corresponding ‘apps’ over the last few years, we have become increasingly reliant on digital information for nearly every aspect of our lives. This demand is driving new choices for how we access and manage digital information beyond mobile devices, to all kind of interesting applications in the PC, TV, and signage markets.
Take interactive touch screens and digital ‘smart’ signs for example. For years, retailers, entertainment venues, and others have been using banks of TV screens and large displays to broadcast images and marketing messages in an effort to expand the delivery of their product information. In January 2010, Intel and Microsoft announced they were collaborating to take displays to the next level by developing smart sign technology that would offer interactivity to shoppers and help brick and mortar retailers customize their promotions in order to better compete with web-based retail.
The solution proposed by Intel & Microsoft uses cameras to recognize whether the viewer is male or female and then presents offers for products that are more likely to appeal to them. But what if you allowed the display to know more about you? What if the display could recognize who you were, what your personal preferences were, and then serve up an individualized experience?
This type of innovation is being explored at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts where low-cost technologies such as RFID and sensors are being used to create seamless and pervasive ways for us to interact with information and with each other. Read the ThingMagic announcement.
To support its own internal events and to assist students and faculty with distributing and accessing information about its groups and projects, the Media Lab has deployed a network of presence-based, touch-sensitive information displays. Visitor presence - sensed through the integration of RFID readers into each display and RFID badges worn by guests - automates the creation of personal profiles, enables personalized content delivery and group information sharing, and delivers aggregated location and activity data to centralized display screens so individuals can track the progress of their visit. Each visitor’s portfolio is saved and can be accessed online at a later date.
Of course, securing personal data is required for these types of solutions to be adopted broadly outside of closed-loop applications, especially in markets such as retail. For industries that already operate largely on an opt-in basis however – like conferences, events, museums, libraries, and theme parks – these solutions can offer a significantly enhanced customer experience. Large & small enterprises, hospitals, and, of course, schools and universities are also potential early adopters, as they can benefit tremendously from making information more accessible, interactive – and customized.
Share your thoughts about the evolution of smart signs. Where will they work? Where won’t they work? How are personal data security issues best addressed?